Technology seems to advance so quickly that staying up to date on the latest innovations is more or less impossible. This is especially true as we age. Your grandma struggles when using her smartphone because she was brought up in a time where one couldn’t imagine the existence of such a thing. And this will hold true for all of us; technology will continue to advance in ways we can’t fathom until one day us millennials will be the ones who are out of the loop. All this is to say that new technologies develop quickly and continuously, and society is used to and adapts quickly to these constant innovations. We take technological development for granted. People are constantly finding new ways to make life easier and better(supposedly). However, it is rare that we stop and ask ourselves if technology actually improves quality of life. Alice Kahn, who said, “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press 3,” certainly doesn’t think so. I believe that while technology has improved quality of life in certain ways, for the most part, it has only given the illusion of improving quality of life, without actually doing so.
Quality of life is a very vague term, making it difficult to define, but a quick Google search gives a short definition that I’ll use for the sake of simplicity: “the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group.” Technology has certainly brought about improvements in physical health and comfort. Medical technology is always improving, leading to lower infant mortality, cures for diseases, and many more improvements in quality of life. Mental health and comfort, however, have not improved as technology has advanced. Suicide rates are higher than ever, especially in developed countries. Depression is on the rise, and is now one of the most common medical conditions.
Although happiness, the third category of quality of life in Google’s definition, is very subjective and difficult to measure, the increases in rates of suicide and depression indicate that the world is not getting happier over time as technology progresses. One could go as far as to theorize that technology has actually had a detrimental effect on happiness, since many highly developed countries have seen worsening suicide and depression rates. Though proving that technological growth causes lower happiness would be very difficult, it isn’t so far-fetched to hypothesize that worsening mental health could be connected to a decrease in real, meaningful human interaction as we become more attached to our devices and less connected with the world around us.
Technology makes us think that it improves our quality of life without actually improving it. Advertisements convince us that we will be better off if we have nicer things. On the surface, that seems true. Getting a fancier phone or car is exciting! But as soon as we get used to owning that new car or phone, the excitement wears off and we go right back to living our same old lives without really becoming healthier or happier. Technology is constantly improving, promising a better life with each new invention, but it has yet to fulfill that promise.
(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Colby Community Website. The original article can be found at https://web.colby.edu/st112a2018/2018/02/07/first-post-2/)